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Audi Type K (14,50)  (1922)

With the Treaty of Versailles marking the end of World War I the automobile industry in Germany changed its focus from the production of military vehicles back to vehicles for the civilian population.

Despite post-war economic problems it was clear the car was here to stay - between 1924 and 1928 the number of cars in Germany grew from 420,000 to 1,200,000. As the car became more popular it became more accessible to more of society. The 1920's marked the first time a car was built and targeted at the 'man in the street'. Key brands in this growth - soon to become a strong alliance - made a major impact on the world:

A post-war rethink by Audi's Technical Director Hermann Lange led to a completely new design principle for the 'new Audi'. AUDI was one of few medium sized companies and despite the quality of the cars there simply weren't enough being produced.

Audi Type M (18,70) concept (1924)

In 1928 AUDI Werke AG was acquired by JS Rasmussen, the head of the DKW empire.

A decision was made that AUDI should develop cars of a simpler design which were cheaper to build and used less ambitious constructional features. Rasmussen gave a brief to designers to build a small car powered by a DKW motorcycle engine, with swing axle suspension, front wheel drive and a wooden body - to be developed in six weeks! Amazingly the brief was completed and the car went on to sell over 250,000 units, making it Germany's most popular car at the time.

Throughout this period AUDI was a leading light in the concept of aero-dynamic design and streamlined bodywork. Concepts developed in the 1920's are still valid today.


Audi Dresden Type T concept (1931)

In the 1930s the number of motor vehicles was growing rapidly all over the world, and more than 80% of them were used for private transport - individual mobility was on the way up at last.

It was in this environment that Auto Union AG was created. On 29th June 1932 Audi, Horch and DKW joined forces to create the Auto Union. A purchase and leasing agreement was concluded at the same time with the Wanderer company, for the takeover of its automobile division. At the stroke of a pen, Germany's second largest motor vehicle manufacturing group had been created.

The new emblem, with its four intersecting rings, symbolised the inseperable character of the new undertaking according to the will of the four founder companies.

Audi Type P (5,30) concept (1931)

Whilst Auto Union's technical policy was quite openly based on its member-companies' traditions, There was a move towards greater sharing of components between the brands. By 1935 all technical development had been transferred to the new Central Design Office and Central Experimental Department in Chemnitz, where the Audi 920, DKW F9, Wanderer Types 23 and 24 and the Horch 930 S were developed. A fascinating aspect of the Central Experimental Department was the existence of a thoroughly modern crash testing program, with simulated front and side collisions and a lateral rollover test.

Assisted by rapid growth in the German car market, Auto Union expanded fourfold in size between 1932 and 1938. By 1938 Auto Union had 25% of the German car market, and member company DKW had become the world's largest manufacturer of motorcycles. The group also contributed 27% of Germany's motor vehicle exports.

Although Audi was an early (1933) pioneer of front wheel drive, the brand's new direction towards higher-powered, more enthusiast-oriented cars demanded more powerful engines than the existing Wanderer-based units could provide. There also had to be a switch back to rear wheel drive, as there was a limit to the durability of the front drive universal joints of the day when asked to cope with larger engines. The resulting 1939 Audi 920, with a new 3.3 litre six cylinder OHC engine, was capable of a top speed of more that 130 km/h.


At the end of hostilities in 1945, Germany was split into four occupied zones, with the Auto Union's headquarters in Chemnitz finding itself in the Russian-occupied East. Apart from that, it was also obvious that the plants at Zwickau and Zschopau would be dismantled and their contents removed. Worse, Audi's works manager Heinrich Schuh and his DKW colleague Arlt were arrested by the Russians and taken away, to be put to death as it later transpired.

It was clearly the end for Germany's second largest automobile manufacturing group, especially as the occupying powers expunged its name from the trade register in 1948.

But a group of directors of the former company had managed to leave Chemnitz in 1945, prior to Germany's partition, and make their way to Bavaria. Meeting in Munich with other former executives, they discussed how the remnants of the Auto Union could be restored to some kind of life.

The nearby town of Ingolstadt offered excellent terms for the establishment of a large parts store, and for preparations to be made for restarting production, and the Bavarian State Bank agreed to make a loan on the basis of the personal standing of directors Dr. Hahn and Dr. Bruhn. By the end of 1946, the Ingolstadt depot was the largest parts store in Germany, but there were many legal and financial hurdles still to overcome.

Following the liquidation of the old company in Chemnitz, it was decided to set up a new company with no links with the previous one, and on September 3rd, 1949, the 'new' Auto Union GmbH was established. The Auto Union had now been completely transplanted from East to West Germany, and was the only automobile manufacturer to be successfully reborn in this way.

The first product of the new company, befitting the 'back to basics' nature of the post-war German economy, was the DKW F89 L delivery van, powered by a twin-cylinder two-stroke engine and front wheel drive. It was the first van with a forward control cab. The new Auto Union, due to marque traditions and the simple nature of the product, was in fact primarily identified with the DKW brand.

The new company's first passenger car was the reborn DKW F9, which had been almost ready for production as war broke out. Drawings were acquired by devious means, and missing parts were recreated, and the first cars came off the line in July 1950.

During the fifties, the F9 was succeeded by the three-cylinder F91 and F93/94, still of two-stroke configuration. The Auto Union nameplate made its return in 1957, with the launch of the Auto Union 1000, a further development of the F series DKW. Admired at the time for its graceful, curvaceous styling, the Auto Union 1000 also spawned a very attractive coupe, the 1000 SP.

In 1959 the 741cc 3 cylinder DKW Junior was launched, and proved very popular. The Junior's successor, the 1963 F12, had truly up to date styling and front disc brakes (rare on a small car at this time). When the Auto Union 1000's replacement, the all-new DKW F102, also arrived in 1963, the group at last had a range of modern passenger cars.

The main barrier to greater sales success however was the continuing reliance on two-stroke engine technology, which, although it gave the Auto Union a point of difference, was increasingly difficult to justify in a world which was becoming more environmentally aware.

During the fifties the new company, with no reserves to call on, was constantly in need of capital to fund development. In 1954, Friedrich Flick, a wealthy industrialist, acquired a financial interest in the Ingolstadt and Dusseldorf automobile manufacturing operations, having been previously obliged by an international court verdict to dispose of his coal and steel interests. His initial involvement was concealed by making purchases through various companies in his vast business empire. As increases in equity were decided on, Flick's shareholding rose considerably, and he was represented on the supervisory board by Dr. Odilo Burkart, chief executive of one of Flick's companies. In December 1957, Flick also managed to acquire the shares of several pioneering members of the Auto Union's management, and was soon in a position to control the company.

In April 1958 Flick instructed Burkart to offer his holding to Daimler-Benz. The same day, the Stuttgart-based company purchased the shares of the other main holder, effectively giving them ownership.

Thanks to the success of the DKW Junior, 1962 was the company's best business year since the war, but falling sales of the larger models were a cause of concern to the new owners, not helped by the dogged loyalty of Auto Union's management to the two-stroke engine. Probably influenced by the frictional relationship with its new family member, Daimler-Benz made a strategic decision to concentrate its efforts on the luxury car and commercial vehicle markets. There was only one logical conclusion - Auto Union was to be sold off again.

In 1962 Fredrich Flick met Heinrich Nordhoff, then chief executive of Volkswagen, to discuss a possible takeover. The Wolfsburg company realised that the move would give them a needed increase in production capacity, as well as ownership of one of their more serious competitors. The deal was done.

Incredibly, the Auto Union engineers persisted with their passion for two-strokes, and commissioned their design office to develop a six-cylinder two-stroke of 80 horsepower. The project came to an abrupt end when VW took over the reins. There was now no doubt that the next Auto Union engine would be a four-stroke.


Audi 60 ,D-B Heron,75,80,Super 90 concept (1965)

The 1965-1984 chapter in Audi's history was characterised by the most difficult period the world's automobile manufacturing industry experienced since the Second World War. The twin oil shocks of the 1970s resulted in major sales reversals and a repositioning of product lineups as the world's carmakers adjusted to the demands of a new, more environmentally demanding marketplace. It was during this period that the Audi brand had its modern-day baptism, and it was the strategic direction that was established during the late sixties that erased the memories of the struggling Auto Union days and secured the future of Audi as one of the world's premium car brands.

By late 1964 Volkswagen had acquired 50.3% of the Auto Union shares, and was thus able to introduce its own management procedures at Ingolstadt. During the next two years the remaining shares were purchased and by the end of 1966 the four rings had become the symbol for a wholly-owned VW subsidiary.

The development of models capable ofgenerating higher sales volumes couldn't come soon enough, as the two-stroke's reputation had never been so low. Work went ahead on completing the F103 - this was the existing F102 with a new high-compression four-stroke engine developed during the period of Daimler-Benz control. To help keep the production lines going in the short term, however, Volkswagen introduced the 'Beetle' to Ingolstadt, where between 300 and 500 were assembled each day for over four years from May 1965. It was an effective means of maintaining full employment when the outdated Auto Union models weren't selling.

Audi Variant  concept (1966)

Apart from utilisation of production capacity, the other problem was the need to rejuvenate Auto Union's management, and within a matter of weeks there had been a complete change.

In September 1965 the first four-stroke car to emerge from Ingolstadt was ready for public launch. It bore the Audi badge.

Later, after lengthly and sometimes acrimonious discussion, Volkswagen completed the takeover of NSU AG at Neckarsulm, and the establishment of the new company, Audi NSU Auto Union GmbH, was backdated to January 1st 1969.

Audi 100  concept (1968)

A new growth strategy was immediately embarked upon, involving substantial investment as well as structural reorganisation, with a parallel sales organisation operating in conjunction with that of Volkswagen.


Audi 80  concept (1972)

The long-term strategic objective remained the gaining of step-by-_step access to the luxury segment of the market, the most important factor in upgrading the Audi marque being the car's advanced technology, which put it among the pioneers in contemporary automobile engineering. In January 1971 the first double-page advertisement appeared containing the slogan which has since been so closely associated with the Four Rings: 'Vorsprung durch Technik' - 'The Technological Edge'.

The importance of technical research and development was confirmed in August 1969, when Audi began to build its own technical development complex at Ingolstadt. The initiator of this project was Technical Director Dr. Ludwig Kraus, who succeeded in convincing Wolfsburg that an independent Audi development centre was needed. Subsequent events proved him right, and much of the creative work produced at Ingolstadt was also suitable for Volkswagen models.

The Audi model range developed rapidly, initially around the original four-stroke car which became known as the Audi 72 (based on its engine power). Later versions were the 80, Super 90 and 60, and at the end of 1968 the 72 and 80 were replaced by a new Audi 75.

Audi Karmann Asso Di Picche concept (1973)

Meanwhile, Ludwig Kraus had a clear picture of how he felt a new Audi 100 should look, but as new model development was regarded as a VW prerogative his only chance was to advance the development of the new car in secret. It slowly took shape in this clandestine fashion until the clay model was 'accidentally ' discovered in the styling studio by Board Chairman Rudolf Leiding. He was so impressed that he asked Wolfsburg for special permission to undertake 'body modifications', then suggested that the VW Group Board of management might care to come and inspect the result. Led by Chairman Heinz Nordhoff, the executives expressed their admiration, and production went ahead.

The new car was launched in 1968, and by the time it was replaced in 1976 more than 800,000 had been built, far exceeding any of the forecasts. It was a pivotal car for Audi, enabling the brand to regain a personality of its own. No longer was it necessary to pad out the production lines at Ingolstadt with Volkswagen Beetles. Audi moved into the upper midsize class with the declared aim of raising its brand positioning still further.

The next big hit was the smaller Audi 80, introduced in 1972, which sold over a million units over the next six years. Then came Audi's return to the small car market with the 1974 Audi 50, which later (in a lower specification) became the original VW Polo.

Audi 100 S Mittelmotor-Coupe concept (1974)

A new Audi 100 was introduced in 1976, and the following year a 2.2 litre five-cylinder engine was added to the range. Later, in the Audi 200 5T, the engine was turbocharged , and Audi made further inroads into the top sports/luxury segment of the market. Meanwhile, the second-generation Audi 80, with a five cylinder version later renamed Audi 90, was in greater demand than ever before.

In response to the twin oil shocks of the 1970s a research vehicle was exhibited at the 1981 Frankfurt Motor Show, aided by funds provided by the Federal German Ministry for Research and Technology.

The design study demonstrated that significant improvements were possible in energy and raw material consumption, safety, operating economy and practical value. The production version of the car appeared a year later as the new Audi 100, boasting the world's lowest drag coefficient of only 0.30, and winning a number of international awards.


Audi Quattro  concept (1980)

Another Audi icon was taking shape at the same time. The Audi Quattro coupe was launched to a stunned reception at the 1980 Geneva Motor Show. Until then, the all-wheel-drive principle had been restricted to relatively clumsy off-road vehicles, but the Audi Quattro was a genuine high performance car designed to have superior handling on wet or dry roads, and it immediately began to show its potential on the international rallying scene. Permanent all-wheel drive was offered on the Audi 80 in 1982, and by 1984 every Audi model in the range was available with all wheels driven. 'Vorsprung durch Techknik' had taken the next great leap.

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